Top Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Riyaz Naikoo has been killed along with two associates by a joint team of security forces in Kashmir's Pulwama district, a senior security official said on Wednesday.
Riyaz Naikoo, who was leading the banned Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir valley, had been trapped in the operation in Beighbora village of Pulwama district earlier in the day. Jammu and Kashmir director general of police Dilbag Singh was supervising the operation.
A senior police officer described Riyaz Naikoo's elimination as a huge success.
Naikoo is learnt to be close to the Pakistan-based Hizbul chief, Syed Salahuddin, who was declared a global terrorist by the US in 2017.
Naikoo had taken over as chief of the terror group after the outfit's Kashmir commander Burhan Wani was gunned down in July 2016.
The tech-savvy Naikoo, who used to give private tuitions to school children before joining Hizbul Mujahideen, had played a crucial role in holding the terror group's hold in the valley after the group's Zakir Musa split the outfit in 2017 to form his own group Ansar Ghazwatul Hind.
Zakir Musa's new outfit was claimed to be an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Musa didn't get to lead the new outfit for long. He was killed in an encounter in Tral in May last year.
Naikoo, however, had been awfully lucky. In Kashmir, where the career span of terrorists rarely exceeds four years, Naikoo lasted eight years.
He had been cornered by the security forces in Kashmir on several occasions but had managed to slip out every time. One reason, a J&K police officer told Hindustan Times, that when the police got the initial input about the presence of Kashmir's most-wanted terrorist, police chief Dilbag Singh quickly got into the picture to oversee the entire operation.
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on hindustantimes.com, and is published by special syndication arrangement.